NASA Picks SpaceX Starship to Carry Next Americans Astronauts to the surface of the Moon


Under the Artemis program to explore more of the lunar surface, NASA is getting ready to send astronauts on the Moon, and the agency has picked SpaceX for the mission of the first commercial human lander. The SpaceX Starship human lander will take the next two American astronauts to the Moon, and at least one of those astronauts will make history as the first woman on the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first person of color in addition to the first woman on the lunar surface with SpaceX starship.

Orion spacecraft will carry four crew members for their multi-day journey to lunar orbit, and the agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket will launch the spacecraft. After that, two astronauts will transfer to the SpaceX human landing system (HLS) for the last leg of their mission to the lunar surface. Both the astronauts will examine the surface almost for a week before they will board the lander and heading back to orbit where they will return to Orion and their colleagues before traveling back to Earth.

The firm-fixed-price, goal-based contract’s entire award value is $2.89 billion.

“Nasa and our associates will successfully execute the first crewed demonstration mission to the lunar surface as the agency makes an effort for women’s equality and deep space research,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Operations Mission Directorate and assistant executive for Human Explorations. 

This crucial move sets humanity on a path to a sustainable lunar journey and manages our missions farther into the solar system, including Mars.

To inform its lander plan and ensure it meet the human spaceflight standards and NASA’s performance requirements, SpaceX has been working closely with NASA experts. A fundamental tenet for protection systems, these agreed-upon criteria range from fields of medical technical areas, engineering, safety, and health.

“This is an exhilarating experience for all, particularly the Artemis crew,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, project administrator for HLS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “During the Apollo project, we succeeded in landing the first humans on the lunar surface and proved that it is possible to do the impossible. By using a collaborative way in working with industry while leveraging NASA’s proven professional expertise and skills, American astronauts will return to the Moon’s surface once again, this time to examine new areas for a longer duration.”

SpaceX’s HLS Starship, meant to land on the Moon, leans on the flight heritage of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles and the company’s experimented Raptor engines. Starship includes two airlocks for astronaut moonwalks and a spacious cabin. The Starship architecture is intended to evolve to a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations.

NASA SpaceX
Illustration of an Artemis astronaut on the Moon. Source: NASA

The HLS award is made under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) Appendix H Broad Agency Announcement (BAA).

In correspondence with fulfilling the Appendix H award, NASA plans to execute a competitive procurement for sustainable crewed lunar surface transportation assistance that will give human access to the Moon surface utilizing the Gateway on a regularly recurring basis beyond the initial crewed demonstration mission.

With Orion spacecraft, NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, HLS, and the Gateway lunar outpost, NASA and its commercial and global associates are returning to the Moon for scientific discovery, inspiration, and economic benefit for the upcoming generation. Working with its associates during the Artemis program, the agency will fine-tune precision landing technologies and acquire new mobility capabilities to facilitate the exploration of new areas of the lunar surface. On the surface, the agency has recommended developing a new territory and rovers, examining new power systems, and more. These and other innovations and advancements made under the Artemis program will ensure that NASA and its allies are ready for human exploration’s next big step—the exploration of Mars.


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